The conversations people have on social networks entice brands to want to be part of that space. Companies spend hours and put financial resources into getting talked about by influencers, where the brands may potentially end up on the Top 100 lists of different networks.

If you are putting money into billboards, newspapers and other forms of media, social media seems an obvious box to tick. When seeding your experience to influencers on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, how should you do it? How do people with substantial followers – the ones brands want access to – perceive the brands who want their 140-character spaces?

Enter Sarah Britten who goes by @Anatinus on Twitter and works as a communication strategist. Sarah also spends time creating artworks using lipstick and ranks up there with some South Africa’s most active Twitterati. We asked her about all things related to brand mentions, sharing experiences and how sacred her 140-character space is.

Sarah Britten

WordStart: How do you use social networks, mostly Twitter?

Sarah Britten: I use Twitter to connect with others. So while I know I have over 9 000 followers and many of them are presumably entertained (or irritated!) by what I tweet, my objective is connecting with others and having meaningful conversations. Everything else flows from that.

WordStart: Do brands approach you to talk about them?

Sarah Britten: Occasionally, yes. Usually it’s in the form of an invitation to an event. For example, I attended a Ford launch a couple of weeks ago and naturally I tweeted about my experiences.

WordStart: What, for you, is the best and worst way to get approached by brands?

Sarah Britten: I am fairly relaxed about being approached by brands. That’s perhaps because I work in advertising and write on the side; if I were a journalist I might be more wary. In general, the best way to approach people like me is to work out what we are interested in and passionate about and work from that. If I already care about what you’re doing, it makes it easier for me to tweet about your brand without eroding my own credibility.

WordStart: We heard you were at a meeting once and were typing away on your phone without even looking at it, and you didn’t even lose track of the conversation. Is it true?

Sarah Britten: I’m not that good at multitasking! Autocorrect terrifies me too much to not double check.

WordStart: Would you charge brands to tweet about them? Why? Why not?

Sarah Britten: I know of people who are paid – a lot – to live tweet events, and I’ve done one job in the past where I was paid for my time. But the idea of being paid cash per tweet does not sit well with me – I’d rather attend an interesting event and tweet about that. My followers are valuable to me and I would not want to abuse them by tweeting too much about something that isn’t relevant to them.

WordStart: In instances when a brand pays you talk about them, would that influence what you say about the brand and/or product experience?

Sarah Britten: It’s very difficult not to let that influence you, because you’re performing a service when a client pays you and you have to eat (going Paleo is expensive, what with all those nuts). I have a policy with clients: I never tweet negative comments if they are paying me. It’s just simpler that way. So I make that clear, that they are a paying client, and then my followers can draw their own conclusions.

WordStart: If any marketers were listening, what would you tell them about the approach they use for you to mention them, or to get mentioned by others in your network and end up on your timeline?

Sarah Britten: Do interesting things. Create social objects for us. Social connection needs a starting point, so the best way for brands to get talked about is to create those focal points and allow conversation to flow from there. (Never try to control conversation too much – this is PR more than paid advertising.)

WordStart: We know you are speaking at TEDx Johannesburg on 15 August, tell us a little about  your talk.

Sarah Britten - TEDx

Sarah Britten: My talk was quite literally inspired by a tweet. I had linked to a lipstick painting inspired by the Twitter egg; someone asked about the chicken, and it grew from there. The story brings together the theme of genes and memes – the egg as both a store of genetic material and a powerful symbol throughout history – and winds this in with my experience as someone who does not have children, but who creates ideas for a living. The core theme is randomness and creativity, and how we never know what will lead from one thing to another.

With an estimated 135 000 people signing up on Twitter, 58 million tweets per day and about 819 million active monthly users on Facebook, it makes sense that every brand wants a piece of the action. Have a look at Sarah Britten’s art here and catch her on Twitter for more updates. Her presentation at TEDx Johannesburg will be streamed and we’ll also tweet the action. Login here to catch the whole TEDx Johannesburg. What are your thoughts engaging customers in the age of social and being part of the conversation?